Arizona is the 48th state of the United States, having joined the union only before Hawaii and Alaska. You most likely know this state as the home of the Grand Canyon. While the Earth’s deepest canyon is one of the most beautiful places in the world, Arizona has so much more to offer. The state’s capital is the 5th largest city in the country, and there is no lack of cultural diversity if you take the time to explore the state. Nature and history have also made the expanse of Arizona a place to enjoy otherworldly desert landscapes while also having otherwise rare glimpses into the vibrant past and present of Native American people. Nightborn Travel is born and raised in Arizona, so we hope to provide you with a detailed guide to everything that this state has to offer, from restaurants in Phoenix, to hiking guides around the state, as well as larger scale guides and itineraries that we provide for the other locations that we explore.
- 1 General Information and Arizona’s Cities
- 2 Native American Nations
- 3 Nature
- 4 Nightborn Travel Itineraries
- 5 Where We’ve Been
General Information and Arizona’s Cities
Type: US State (1912)
Region: North America
Official Languages: English; Spanish is common and Native American languages like Dine, Tohono O’odham, Apache, and others are still living.
Population: 6,931,071 (2016)
Currency: US Dollar
Cultures: American (Southwestern- with heavy influences from Mexican and Native American cultures); How to Travel Respectfully in the US
Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, and it has gained some notoriety as an endless, souless suburbia. 10 years ago, that might have been true, but these days the city has started to transform into a foodie’s paradise and it is home to some of the most unique museums in the world. Phoenix may not be the city that I consider to embody the cultural mixing pot of Arizona, but it is certainly the place to go if you want to see the modern vibrancy of life in the state. I would be remiss to mention that Phoenix is also home to some of the largest urban, natural preserves in the US.
Check out our guide for the Phoenix-metro area; we cover cultural attractions and tons of hiking in the area.
If you are interested in getting a real sense for how Southwestern cultures have manifested in Arizona, Tucson should be your go-to. There is a very strong Mexican influence here, and the city also borders the Tohono O’odham nation, home to the San Xavier Mission (which makes a prominent appearance in the city’s flag above). Tucson is also surrounded by amazingly beautiful mountains, several of which are Sky Islands (desert on the bottom and forests on the top), so there is an almost endless variety of hiking trails to explore.
For all the information that you need on the attractions and hiking in this city, see our Guide to Tucson.
CITIES COMING SOON: Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott, and Payson
Other Towns in Arizona
Every town in Arizona has it’s own charm, and most are worth a look by both local people and visitors. If you’d like to see a list of Arizona’s small towns, along with our guides to those that we’ve explored, check that out here. Otherwise, check out our most recent posts on them below:
Native American Nations
Arizona has the most land, nearly a quarter of its area, of any US state set aside as Native American Nations. Not all of them are interested in visitors, but those that are offer unique cultural, historic, and natural experiences that should not be missed. We will add guides here to those as we are able to visit.
The Havasupai Tribe are the heart and soul of the Grand Canyon and the keepers of Havasu Falls. If you want to learn more about their culture and history, our guide will give you some starting points to learn more. If you want to visit, we also have the guide for you.
Most people think about three things when they imagine nature in Arizona, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the desert. Unsurprisingly, this state is far more complex than that. The simplest way to think about the environment of Arizona is that the south is a lowland desert and the north has higher elevations and forests; the two are delineated by a ridge called the Mogollon Rim. Of course, if you have driven the state, you know that the landscape is a far more like a mosaic than the above description implies. To the south, you will be met with a land of rolling desert grasslands that are crowned by mountains so high that they have their own forests at their summits (called the Sky Islands). But the characteristic, bushy desert of the Sonoran Desert that surrounds the capital of Phoenix also stretches to the south and north. This is a highly biodiverse desert, which will surprise plenty of people with its greenery. To the north, forests become more common, but it is not without its own desert wonders. Monument Valley and the Painted Desert are both great examples of just how jarringly beautiful these places can be. National Parks and State Parks are a great place to start in discovering the magic of Arizona.
Highpoint: Humphreys Peak
UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Grand Canyon National Park
National Parks: 22 National Parks
Our Most Recent Nature Posts
Vulture Peak sits on Bureau of Land Management land just south of Wickenburg. With its jagged, red summit, it’s unmistakable. However, this is no hike for the faint of heart or ill-prepared explorer.
Tonto Natural Bridge was a very famous destination in it’s day. Luckily, these days it has quieted down a bit, and you can enjoy the otherworldly beauty of this park in peace.
The McDowell Mountain Regional Park might not be on alot of people’s radars when they think about visiting Phoenix. But if you are a mountain biker or a first time hiker looking to explore the Sonoran Desert, this is the park for you.
National Park Units
Arizona is home to more than 20 parks administered by the US National Parks. All of them are beautiful and unique, and they offer an fascinating mix of nature and history across the state. Check out the full list here (Arizona National Parks), along with our guides, and track our progress in visiting them all.
Our most recent posts on the National Park Units in Arizona can be found below:
Other Public Lands
There are many National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, and Wilderness Areas throughout Arizona. For more information on what those are, and to access our guides to them, check out our full list of Arizona’s Other Public Lands, or see below for our most recent post!
There are over 30 state parks in Arizona, and they can be found all over the state, covering all of Arizona’s most fascinating landscapes. If you want to see a lesser explored side of the Grand Canyon State, state parks are the place to start. See our full list of state park guides here, or see our most recent state park post below.
Why You Need to Visit Tonto Natural Bridge – Just north of Payson, AZ, Tonto Natural Bridge is an easy-to-access, otherwordly formation complete with waterfalls and travertine formations.
Arizona has nearly endless miles of trails to explore, and in 2020 I decided to commit to 4 hiking challenges. (1) To complete the Arizona 20-20 challenge to hike the 20 tallest peaks and 20 deepest canyons. (2) To hike the Arizona Trail, passage by passage. (3) To thoroughly explore the Grand Canyon. (4) To complete the 120 hikes listed in Falcon’s Hiking Arizona guide. To access the full list, associated guides, and track my progress- give our Arizona Hiking Challenges page a look.
For our most recent posts on each:
Arizona 20-20 Challenge: An Arizonan’s Guide to Hiking Havasupai
Arizona Trail: None yet!
Grand Canyon: None yet!
Nightborn Travel Itineraries
Itineraries from other bloggers
Vegas to Phoenix in 48 Hours (From Bee Anything But Boring)
Ultimate Weekend Guide for the Grand Canyon (From Ready, Set, PTO)
Where We’ve Been
More Posts and Tips
How to Obtain a Havasupai Permit by The Wandering Queen
If your thirst for Arizona knowledge has not been quenched by this guide, please visit our Explore Arizona Pinterest board for more blogger insight into this beautiful, amazing state.